James Harden, Dwight Howard
AP

Rumor: Dwight Howard unhappy taking backseat to James Harden with Rockets

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James Harden‘s teammates reportedly complained about his play and aloofness during a players-only meeting.

Was one of the critics Dwight Howard?

Chris Sheridan of Sheridan Hoops:

Dwight Howard is extremely unhappy in Houston playing second fiddle to alpha dog James Harden, multiple league sources tell SheridanHoops.com.

Sheridan is hit or miss. He was ahead of the game on LeBron James returning to the Cavaliers and completely whiffed on a mystery coach getting fired last May. Sheridan doesn’t have a high enough accuracy rate, but he has also developed many great sources in his years covering the NBA. Take this report in that context.

Circumstantially, it makes some sense.

The Rockets are 12-13, and that type of losing creates problems and brings festering ones to the surface.

Howard ranks fifth on the team in shots per game – behind Harden, Trevor Ariza, Marcus Thornton and Terrence Jones. At age 30, Howard might not be capable of carrying a huge load, but that doesn’t mean he thinks that way. Earlier this year, he said he believes he’s the NBA’s best player.

It’s not easy for anyone who has played at Howard’s level to defer to a teammate. Howard would probably do it to win – after all, Harden was already in Houston when Howard signed – but the Rockets aren’t winning.

Howard can opt out this summer, and Houston already has a viable replacement starting centerClint Capela, who’s nine years younger than Howard. Both factors nudge the needle toward a trade. Howard being unhappy would push it even further.

Rockets general manager Daryl Morey has called working with the current roster a priority over trading, but if Howard is this unhappy, something has to give.

The Rockets could play better, and I bet Howard’s attitude changes. But if they continue to struggle, it’s difficult to see Howard becoming more pleased with his situation – however he feels about it now.

Mavericks’ reported Plan A: Mike Conley and Hassan Whiteside

DALLAS, TX - FEBRUARY 03:  Hassan Whiteside #21 of the Miami Heat takes a shot against JaVale McGee #11 of the Dallas Mavericks in the first half at American Airlines Center on February 3, 2016 in Dallas, Texas.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
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The Mavericks, upon agreeing to terms with DeAndre Jordan last summer, believed they situated themselves as a legitimate contender to sign Kevin Durant.

Oops.

Jordan returned to the Clippers, and Dallas rode a hastily assembled roster as far as it could (to a first-round loss). That probably won’t sway Durant.

Assuming it doesn’t, Dallas has a new more realistic plan: Mike Conley and Hassan Whiteside.

Tim MacMahon and Marc Stein of ESPN:

The Dallas Mavericks expect to be granted a meeting in the opening hours of free agency with Miami Heat center Hassan Whiteside, one of the Mavericks’ two primary targets this summer, sources told ESPN.com.

Memphis Grizzlies point guard Mike Conley is the other top target for the Mavs, according to sources, as Dallas attempts to construct a core that will allow the franchise to be competitive during veteran Dirk Nowitzki‘s twilight and beyond.

That’d be a fantastic coup for Dallas. Conley, Wesley Matthews, Dirk Nowitzki and Whiteside would be about as good a core as the Mavericks can get. That’s how you maximize Nowitzki’s remaining years.

And it might actually be realistic.

The Heat don’t have Whiteside’s Bird Rights, and they also want to re-sign Dwyane Wade. It won’t be easy managing that.

The Grizzlies are reportedly concerned about Conley leaving. That’s a change in tone.

Signing Conley and Whiteside to max deals – surely what it’d take to land them – would leave about $13 million to sign Nowitzki and a small forward. Justin Anderson might be ready for a bigger role, but Dallas would likely also target a safer choice to provide insurance.

With that roster, a decent veteran would probably be tempted by the cap space Nowitzki doesn’t want. Then, Dallas would be rolling.

Of course, there’s a lot of wishful thinking here. Plan A might work, but it probably won’t. What’s Plan B?

PBT Podcast: Breaking down draft — plus Rose, Ibaka trades — with Dan Feldman

NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 23:  Commissioner Adam Silver concludes the first round of the 2016 NBA Draft at the Barclays Center on June 23, 2016 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images)
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There weren’t as many trades or surprises on draft night as we — or team executives — expected, but there were a few.

Jaylen Brown goes third to the Celtics and they do not trade the pick. Thon Maker goes ridiculously high to the Bucks at No. 10. Then there were the big trades of the last couple days — Serge Ibaka to Orlando with Victor Oladipo heading to Oklahoma City, and of course Derrick Rose is now a Knick.

Who won, and who lost? Well the Sixers win, and bigs who decided to test themselves in college rather than hide and remain a mystery lost. But there’s more than that, and Kurt Helin and Dan Feldman of NBC Sports break it all down in this latest podcast.

As always, you can check out the podcast below, or listen and subscribe via iTunes, subscribe via the fantastic Stitcher app, or check out our new PBT podcast homepage and archive at Audioboom.com.

PBT Extra: Why Oklahoma City got better trading Serge Ibaka

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It was the big trade of the night: Serge Ibaka went to the Eastern Conference and the Orlando Magic in exchange for Victor Oladipo, Ersan Illyasova, and the rights to No. 11 pick Domantas Sabonis out of Gonzaga.

I like this trade in the short term for Orlando: Frank Vogel has pieces to work with along the front line in Ibaka, Aaron Gordon, and Nikola Vucevic. This could push them into the playoffs in the East (especially if you are a bigger fan of Elfrid Payton than I am).

But this move makes the Oklahoma City Thunder — a team that came within one game of the NBA Finals — better because Oladipo is a massive upgrade over Andre Roberson or Dion Waiters. And there is zero chance this happened without at least the tacit approval of Kevin Durant.

I discuss it all in this latest PBT Extra.

Report: Thunder to guarantee Ersan Ilyasova’s contract

BOSTON, MA - JANUARY 06:  Kelly Olynyk #41 of the Boston Celtics defends Ersan Ilyasova #23 of the Detroit Pistons during the first quarter at TD Garden on January 6, 2016 in Boston, Massachusetts.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
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This is the best indication yet the Thunder believe they can re-sign Kevin Durant.

Ersan Ilyasova – acquired from the Magic in the Serge Ibaka trade – will make $8.4 million season unless he’s waived by July 1. If dropped by then, his salary is just $400,000 guaranteed.

Anthony Slater of The Oklahoman:

If Durant re-signs, the Thunder wouldn’t have cap space anyway. All they’d accomplish by waiving Ilyasova is saving money and losing a useful role player (maybe their starting power forward).

If Durant leaves, Oklahoma City might want to free the extra cap space to pursue other free agents. (There’s a chance they’d keep Ilyasova, anyway. He’s not bad value at $8.4 million. But they’d probably prioritize wing help and someone better fit to play up-tempo with Russell Westbrook and Victor Oladipo.

Because the Thunder have to decide on Ilyasova before Durant likely makes his decision, they’re signaling how they feel about their odds of keeping Durant.